The flags advertise cannabis products. They also proclaim that the hundreds of exhibitors and guests gathered within the hall are celebrating the fifth annual CannaBusiness expo, an event created by Duppe and Riechmann to provide a showcase for cannabis products and a meeting place for inspired minds who have made cannabis an industry.
“We don’t believe in rope versus dope,” explains Duppe, taking a break from rushing around inside the hall coordinating media events, symposiums, and parties. “Anything about cannabis, you’ll find it here.”
CannaBusiness is a festival, trade show, networking opportunity, and party rolled into a phat three-day weekend. This year’s event attracted international cannacelebrities, such as England’s famous smuggler Howard “Mr Nice” Marks, and superactivist Free Rob Cannabis.
Marks was mobbed by autograph-hounds looking for him to sign copies of his hilarious autobiography, Mr Nice, but he found time to peruse Cannabis Culture, which he said was intellectually substantive and entertaining.
After spending the 1980’s smuggling megatons of dope to North America, several years hiding out as a fugitive while being hunted by a massive DEA operation, and seven years in the US prison system (he got out in 1995) as an extradited Brit, the 55-year-old Marks has become an internationally-recognized marijuana legalizer and merchandiser.
“What can they do to me now? I’ve already been in prison. Everybody knows the worst about me,” he said. “My job is to constantly put it in the face of the authorities that marijuana is fine and the laws aren’t. We’re licensing Howard Marks bongs, pipes, phone cards, a smugglers’ game and an Internet site. My book is in six languages; I do one man shows. It provides a bit of income, and we’re hastening the day of legalization.”
Marks did yoga and meditation in prison, where many of his fellow prisoners were also in on drug charges.
“At least I was old enough and ugly enough not to have to worry about homosexual advances,” he quipped. “But the loss of freedom, the time away from my family, having to watch American television ? I was never suicidal, but it was a very bad time. I send a big finger up the bum of the DEA!”
What does Marks most remember?
“The bloody Daily Mirror got a picture of me when I was a fugitive, and they published it,” he said. “That was a ruthless thing to do. It could well have been a death sentence. They blew my cover and helped get me arrested. I’ve always wondered why they decided to make me a target.”
CannaBusiness vendors offered the latest advances in grow equipment, urine cleansing tricks, hemp products, marijuana manicuring accessories, and smoking devices.
Smoking device booths were especially popular, in part because many staffed by friendly cannababes. Because I do not like coughing, I was most interested in vaporizers. My favorite was the Vapormed Volcano offered by German inventor Markus Storz.
Someone slipped real cannabis into the Volcano, but even without the buzz, Storz’s vapo seemed objectively superior to others I tried. Its superiority derives from an adjustable heat control, which allows users to target specific cannabinoids that have different vaporization temperatures. The unit provides heat-free inhalation: vapor gathers in a sturdy balloon with a two-way check valve on one end. Detach the balloon, and the heady mist is safely stored until you decide to suck it in.
I played with another innovative smoking tool, the Sillybong. It’s made from industrial silicon, bends and folds, can be washed in boiling water, is unbreakable and easy to clean, and doesn’t give off noxious fumes when flame and hot smoke are run through it.
Cigarette smoke clouded the air, but cannabis smoke was present too. There was a discreet presence of high quality German, Dutch and Swiss herb at CannaBusiness. Mind-numbing golden kif and unadulterated Moroccan, Dutch, Swiss and Lebanese hashish also materialized.
Munchies were easily satisfied. CannaBusiness was catered by gourmets who provided hemp soups, breads, burgers, pastas and beverages in an outdoor beer garden. Inside the Europahalle, companies like HanfHaus, Designer Food, Eisblumerl Naturkost, ValChanvre, Dupetit Natural Products and others provided a lip-smacking selection of ganja goodies ? including hemp wine, champagne, beer, energy drinks and mineral waters, hempseed chocolate bars, cereal, flour, cake, and oils, even hemp ice cream! These products were delicious, inexpensive, and filled with the unparalleled nutritional values that only hemp products provide.
Brenda Stumpf, who provided crucial assistance as part of the well-organized, friendly Tri Tec team that facilitated the event, told me that police officers dressed in business suits had made short visits to the hall.
“But they handle marijuana situations very differently than your police in the States do,” she added. “At CannaBusiness, they’ll just ask us to deal with it. They don’t do anything disruptive.”
Later, Stumpf introduced me to Police Supervisor Dieter Post. He was dressed in a beautifully tailored suit, and was absolutely beaming with delight and graciousness.
“I will retire next year,” he said, “but then I will come back to CannaBusiness as a regular visitor.”
Referring to my recent beating at the hands of American police, Stumpf said, “Maybe it can give you hope to meet a police officer who is so humane and relaxed. They aren’t all bad.”
Riechmann and Duppe always bring together an eclectic group of marijuana experts and entrepreneurs for CannaBusiness.
This year’s educational program featured German attorney Michael Hettenbach, who argued that Germany’s driving license regulations discriminate against cannabis users. Sociology professor Dr Gundula Barsch explained why humanity’s natural inclination to alter consciousness should be a centerpiece of drug education, replacing “addiction,” and “zero tolerance” orientations. Youth activists Jochen Reeh and Markus Ganserer explained how Europe’s Green Party and other political groups are forcing a new public debate on cannabis legalization.
Dr Franjo Grotenhermen discussed the use of cannabinoids to relieve pain. For the last decade, Grotenhermen has suffered from a rare medical condition that prevents him from being standing or sitting ? he lay on a stretcher while giving his speech.
I was impressed by the courageous dedication of Dr Grotenhermen. Instead of surrendering to his illness, he’s editing a major book on cannabinoid therapeutics, chairs the International Association for Cannabis as Medicine, and is a research scientist for the nova-Institute.
Other visionaries at CannaBusiness included Bernard Rappaz, a Swiss “biodynamic” farming pioneer at the forefront of Switzerland’s cannabis revolution. Since the early 1990’s, Rappaz has been openly planting and marketing huge crops of potent marijuana. He transforms his harvest into primo hemp food, beverages, textiles, therapeutic flowers, and cosmetics. Rappaz’s Walliser Queen took grand prize at the first Swiss Cannabis Cup in 1999.
“I took the early flak for promoting marijuana,” Rappaz said, referring to legal problems caused by his marketing of dried hemp flowers, “but now I am growing many hectares of cannabis outdoors, and we’ve united Swiss farmers and citizens to support this crop. The Canadian government came looking for medical grade marijuana for research. They visited my farm, asking can I deliver cannabis with more than 5% THC. I told them I certainly can!”
Rappaz speaks French ? I don’t. Our conversation was assisted by multi-lingual Mark Rose, a world citizen who told me his goal is to save the planet through a universal constitution and hemp-based economy. But that’s not all. Rose is putting the finishing touches on a Tibetan Buddhist archive center in the Himalayas, and is also planning to offer a series of “pure cure” weeks in Amsterdam.
“People who are trying to detox from alcohol or cigarettes, or who just want the ultimate rejuvenation treatment, should spend a week with us in Amsterdam,” he explained. “We’ll be offering charras, hash, ice hash, cannabis flowers, and cannabis essential oils in vaporizers, inhalants, vegetarian food, and massage oils. Combine this with our sweet location in Amsterdam, and sincere hospitality, and you have a recipe for healing.”
While I was talking to Rappaz and Rose, a messenger told me free cannabis was available. I accompanied the messenger and found Free Rob Cannabis, the British marijuana advocate whom I’d last seen in Glastonbury, England in 1999 (see CC#25 Free Rob Cannabis).
“We’ve had people coming to the shop with a copy of your magazine,” Rob said. “Yours was the best article ever written about me, because it tells the whole truth. And the truth has won out. I have been facing ‘drug’ charges many months now, but the court never contacts me. I don’t think they want to have anything to do with it.”
Rob said he’s spending most of his time expanding his medical marijuana resource network and ensuring that quality hemp products are available in his shop, which is called In Harmony With Nature.
“I have a girlfriend, a lovely person, who’d be hurt if I went to prison,” Rob said. “So I have focused my energy on the shop and haven’t as many public protests. Sometimes I feel like I haven’t done enough radical direct action lately. The drug war is still alive. It’s a hard choice between self-preservation and activism. I feel guilty that I might not be doing enough.”
Grow and go
CannaBusiness made it clear that the latest trends in commercial marijuana cultivation and finishing involve computerization, mechanization, and standardization. Growers can purchase coconut fiber substrate, specialty nutrient mixes, computerized water-humidity-light control-temperature-ph-ppm-pump systems, and self-cooled lighting equipment with wide-coverage collapsible reflectors. They can also purchase a frog- Kermith the frog- which is the trade name for an industrial manicuring device that makes bud trimming easy on the hands.
All the grow vendors present at CannaBusiness had cool products, friendly sales staff, and genuine understanding of the special challenges facing pot growers. At the end of this article, I’ve listed as many grow equipment manufacturers as I can remember. If you want to set up a profitable, trouble-free grow operation that won’t require daily supervision, these companies can fill your pot.
I was surprised to see an elderly German woman scrutinizing Housegrow grow boxes that were cleverly disguised as furniture. I’d always wanted to ask a German senior citizen about Hitler, since I see so many parallels between America’s drug war and Nazism. I asked how Hitler convinced the German people to go along with the Holocaust.
“Germany had been in economic and social collapse,” the 77-year-old Cologne resident replied. “Hitler gave us prosperity and order. The government and media said Jews caused Germany’s problems. Young people were brainwashed in school and in the Hitler Youth programs. People were taught to inform on each other, and not question the government. They came to take my aunt’s pots and pans for metal, and she said ‘If Hitler can’t afford to run his war without stealing my kitchenware, maybe he should stop.’ The next day they came and took her. They came to people and said, ‘Father is going to the Front, or the son is. Which will it be?’ It was easier to close your eyes.”
I reflected on what the elderly woman said as I prepared to return to the United States. My preparations included dumping and washing all my clothes and luggage, ensuring that airport drug dogs would have nothing to bark at. I also washed my hair with Zydot Ultra Clean hair purifying treatment, and drank Zydot’s urine cleansing potion.
As I dozed on the plane home, a prophetic voice inside my head intoned: “Hitler didn’t really kill himself. He fled to America, where he has been cloned and implanted into anti-pot politicians, anti-pot citizens’ groups, and marijuana eradication agents.”
The nightmare woke me up, and it’s been hard to sleep ever since.